20 Best Things to Do in Lausanne, Switzerland
Tucked away in the arms of the mighty Alps, Switzerland is often referred to as "Heaven on Earth."
With roots that go as far back as the 13th century, this European paradise is a historic asset to the world.
Located in the Romandy region's Vaud canton, the stunning city of Lausanne boasts some of the most magical views of the French Alps.
The city is situated right by Lake Geneva, which separates France from Switzerland.
Lausanne is one of the most prestigious and culturally gifted cities in the country.
The Worldwide Olympic Headquarters are situated here and are of massive interest to travelers from all around the world.
Located 62 kilometers from Geneva, Lausanne is the fourth-largest city in the country.
It's blessed with turquoise lakes, century-old mighty castles, cathedrals, world-renowned brands like Rolex, and a buzzing metropolitan area called Arc Lemanique.
This town offers mouth-watering local cuisine, red cottage cultured European architecture, a slice of history and heritage on every corner, and resplendent scenic landscapes.
Are you ready to explore this colorful city?
Here's a list of the best things to do in Lausanne, Switzerland:
Embark on a Tour of the Fascinating Olympic Museum
Lausanne's greatest pride is that it houses the Headquarters of the International Olympic Committee.
Located at Quai d'Ouchy 1, the Olympic Museum will help you relive the finest moments from the Olympics.
This heritage monument has a whopping 3,000 square meters of exhibition space, over 1,500 exhibits, and more than 150 screens.
Take a subway crossing the beautiful architecture of Lausanne and reach the headquarters to see the heritage sports memorabilia, study a range of competition history, and find your country's story there.
The museum has been recently renovated, giving it a top-notch appeal.
It features displays catering to the ancient history of the Olympics originating in Greece, all the way up to the present Olympic torches, clothing, and posters.
Visit the Awe-Inspiring Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne
Built in 1275, the castle-like Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne boasts as much beauty and regalia as one can possibly imagine.
Following St. James to Santiago de Compostela, located in Spain, the 13th-century Apostles Doorway helped the medieval pilgrims enter the walls of this holy shrine.
This 13th-century doorway still exists, ornate with finely painted sculptures of stone.
At the southern transept, there is a rose window that possesses 10 panels of 13th-century painted glass.
The focal point of this magnanimous monument is the organ at the center, with around 6,000 pipes.
At the aisles in the south are Gothic choir stalls from the 1500s.
Speaking of Gothic beauty, the entire architecture of the building classifies in the Gothic stream of architecture with its pointed arches visible from anywhere in the city, stained glass windows, flying buttresses, ribbed vaults, and ornate decoration.
Admire the Works of Art on Display at the Fondation de l'hermitage
This art gallery bears witness to iconic works of Swiss and European cultural and abstract art from the Renaissance period all the way to the 21st century.
Located at Route du Signal 2, the Fondation de l'hermitage boasts an ambiance and architecture that are nothing short of utterly royal.
There is a vast valley-like ground garden blooming with lilac flowers and tulips all around.
The view of the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne is magnificent from here, too.
This gallery features paintings by master painters and works from stunning collections.
There are pieces from the Bemberg Collection, and Canadian Impressionism also finds significant representation here.
The architecture is comparatively modern and palatial in approach, with a parlor-like environment.
It is best to visit this museum in the evening, when the gallery is royally glammed up with golden lights.
Paintings by famous artists like Bonnard and Clouet are exhibited regularly for visitors to admire.
Enjoy a Luxurious Boat Ride along Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva, also known as the Lac Léman, is a beautiful crescent-shaped water body that separates Switzerland from France.
It is overlooked by the beautiful Alps and has Geneva at its southern tip.
The north shore of this teal lake covers Lausanne.
The shore from east Lausanne to Montreux is called the Swiss Riviera, which beams with picturesque villages, old-town charm, cobbled roads, luxury shops, palm trees, and stunning gardens.
The most popular things to do at Lake Geneva include boarding a streamer, hopping on a cruise, or boarding a ferry for a 35-minute ride to Évian-les-Bains in France.
Visit Lausanne's Wondrous Ouchy Neighborhood and Promenade
Soak in Lausanne's charm by visiting the Ouchy neighborhood, which is found by the lakeside and below the busy center.
This area comprises quintessentially gorgeous Belle Époque hotels, which are connected by a single promenade blooming with flower gardens.
The promenade also connects the newer parts of the city to the old town.
The cherry on the top is the presence of a 12th-century castle-turned-heritage-hotel called Château d'Ouchy.
You'll spot little heritage palaces that were transformed into hotels in every nook and corner of this neighborhood, each one fit for royalty.
Walk through the Mystic Place de la Palud
A trip to Lausanne can never be deemed complete without a visit to the old town area.
Place de la Palud is a historic walking area and is as cinematic and picturesque in nature as can be.
Just below the cathedral, the winding alleys mingle into Place de Palud, where some of the oldest assets of Lausanne rest.
The biggest and oldest fountain of the city is situated here; justice is represented on the center pillar of it.
It is also a market area buzzing with boutiques, bistros, and all things fancy.
Every hour, the figures in front of the fountain start moving very interestingly!
Climb up the Sauvabelin Tower and Take in Glorious Views
This 35-meter-tall tower was constructed to mark the turn of the millennium.
Sauvabelin Tower is located on one of the forest hilltops in Lausanne.
Interestingly, the entire structure is wood made especially with Douglas fir and has 302 stairs to the observation deck.
Once you reach the top, you can see the entire city, Lake Geneva, the French coast, the French Alps, the Swiss Alps, and the Jura region—quite a surreal view!
Apart from this, the tower is situated around a small lake and park where you can sit and enjoy with your family and children.
Enjoy the Underwater Magic at Aquatis Aquarium-Vivarium Lausanne
Located on Route de Berne 144, Aquatis Aquarium-Vivarium will provide you with a refreshing break from the architectural beauty and landmarks of Lausanne.
As Lausanne is a lakeside city, it flourishes with aquatic wildlife, which this aquarium manages to preserve and represent beautifully.
Local and international fishes are on display at Aquatis Aquarium-Vivarium.
However, this place is not only about fishes; many other interesting creatures are housed here, including famous spiders, crocodiles, monkeys, snakes, and much more.
Visitors are often allowed to interact with these animals under surveillance and protection.
Lights and animation techniques are used to attract the attention of the visitors.
Pay a Visit to the Holy Landmark of the Thai Pavilion
The Thai Pavilion is best described as a breath of fresh air.
This holy Asian shrine offers a complete change from the natural ambiance of Lausanne, which makes it one of the most unique landmarks to visit in the city.
Located on Chablais Avenue, this warm and colorful monument sits in the midst of a lush dale filled with flowering woods like cherry blossoms.
It was offered by the royal Thai family living in Lausanne.
This pagoda is like a little slice of Thailand in Switzerland, and an immensely calming aura surrounds it.
Go for a Museum Spree at the World-Renowned Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts
The Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts is one of the most revered art spaces in the city.
Located in the Place de la Gare area, the building in itself is a work of art.
It is a combination of medieval stone and regal architecture with infused and renovated modernity.
The number of French artists represented here is quite impressive, ranging from Paul Cezanne, Auguste Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Maurice Utrillo, and many more.
There is, of course, a brilliant collection of works by Swiss artists, too.
Exhibitions at this museum are constantly changing, so new pieces are displayed here often.
Stroll Down the Historic Escaliers du Marché
The Escaliers du Marché is located in the area between the cathedral and the Place de la Palud.
It is found in what is arguably the most aesthetic area in Lausanne, with long flights of enveloped steps and historic stairs with blooming flowers all around.
These covered staircases have charming old lamps around them, and the entire surrounding neighborhood and buildings rise up with the stairs.
While taking a break from sightseeing, enter a cozy cafe and sip your choice of coffee or the beloved Swiss chocolate.
Spend a Relaxed Evening at the Buzzing Flon District
If you have the notion that Lausanne only has its old-world charm to offer you, be prepared to be dazzled by this particular attraction.
Lausanne's Flon district was designed by world-renowned architects and won't only take you back to the 21st century—the area's design is also borderline futuristic!
The glamorous glass buildings are dramatic, colorful, and filled with luxury shops, restaurants, bistros, offices, designer galleries, and art studios.
The Flon district is one of Lausanne's most active and buzzing areas with a correct representation of Swiss culture and modernity.
The Flon metro station, marked by its green roof, is located nearby.
Watch the Golden Sunset behind the Reformed Church of Saint Francis
Make sure not to end your trip to Lausanne without getting to admire the calming scene of the sunset behind the Reformed Church of Saint Francis.
The tower dates back to 1523, while the church dates from the 13th and 14th centuries.
It is located in Place Saint-François, one of the busiest areas in Lausanne.
Another epitome of Gothic architecture, the church features pointed pastel teal towers, medieval stained glasses, hand-painted sculptures from hundreds of years ago, and a castle-like exterior.
This church used to be under the Franciscan Convent before the Protestant Reformation.
During Christmas, this place is like a jewel to behold.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Enjoy a Train Ride along the Montreux Glion Rochers-de-Naye Railway and Pass through the Lush Swiss Mountains
Being in Switzerland calls for a lot of exploring, especially when you are at a focal junction like Lausanne.
A train ride with a view of the mighty olive Swiss mountains connecting France and Switzerland is as good as it gets.
As evidenced by its name, the Montreux Glion Rochers-de-Naye Railway begins at Montreux and concludes at Rochers-de-Nay.
The neighboring town of Montreux is located just 30 minutes away from Lausanne.
The 55-minute railway ride will take you through breathtaking scenes of Lake Geneva, the Alps, and the Riviera.
Go on a Day Trip to the Medieval Château de Chillon
A tourist visiting Lausanne should not miss the chance to go on a day trip to Château de Chillon, a majestic castle by the lake outside Montreux.
This castle's lakeside location creates a surreal medieval atmosphere.
Château de Chillon dates back to the ninth century and was the actual influence behind Lord Byron's poem The Prisoner of Chillon.
It comprises more than 20 buildings, the oldest of which are still visibly well-maintained.
The castle is reminiscent of tales from the magical past.
Indulge Your Curiosity at the Space of Inventions
The Space of Inventions is a place of wonder and scientific inquiry that’s located at the Vallée de la Jeunesse, standing just at the edges of the lake.
The place wants to fan the fires of scientific inquiry in young and adult minds alike.
To do this, the museum designs and produces its own exhibitions to encourage their visitors to imagine and ask questions about the world around them.
All their displays are temporary, only lasting for about a year, so there’ll always be sense of magic and excitement when you step foot, not knowing what you’ll find or see.
View the Raw Emotion of the Collection de l'Art Brut
Art Brut, also called outsider or raw art, is a genre of works made by the self-taught and the marginalized, overflowing with rebellion and impervious to collective norms and values.
The Collection de l’Art Brut, located at Av. Bergières 11, features over seven thousand pieces made by more than a thousand different creators.
There are some in a permanent collection and there are some that rotate over time.
To visit this museum is to see into the human soul, into the parts that’s rarely looked at and often ignored.
It’s surely going to be a treat for any art enthusiasts out there.
Breathe in the Crisp Fresh Air at the Parc de Mon Repos
Lausanne has no shortage of green spaces to relax in and the Parc de Mon Repos at the Avenue de Mon-Repos is one of them.
It’s one of the most famous ones in the entire city and a beautiful stop over for travelers who end up visiting.
There are various large and unique looking trees planted across the area, giving the place a cool, refreshing, and relaxed feeling.
There are many things to find there, including a Neo-Gothic tower that cuts such a striking view that it’s almost impossible to look away from.
Explore Palais de Rumine
The Palais de Rumine features late Florentine Renaissance architecture and was built in the late nineteenth century.
Today, it contains the cantonal museums of geology, zoology, architecture, and history.
You’ll also find the Cantonal Money Museum there as well as a university library.
Any history buff will undoubtedly fall in love not just with the historic architecture it has but also the many wondrous exhibits they can view while they’re there.
Have Your Fairytale Moment at the Esplanade de Montbenon
The Esplandae de Montbenon is a wonderful open green space at the heart of the city where people can just walk around and admire the beauty of their surroundings.
There’s an enchanting fountain in the area, and flowerbeds bordering the green grass.
It’s enough to make someone feel like they suddenly fell into a fairytale.
You’ll also get a prime view of the lake while you’re there and get to see a statue of the legendary Helvetian hero Guillaume Tell, or as he’s more commonly known to the English-speaking world: William Tell.
Lausanne feels like a place that can only exist in the imagination, so beautiful and picturesque it’s almost impossible to believe it’s real.
And the magic doesn’t fade once you’re there.
With a city teeming with historical sites to see and large, green spaces to explore, it’s hard not to think you’ve wandered into another world entirely.